Bees are attracted to the exquisite blooms on this 15′-30′ spring flowering deciduous tree. The flowers normally appear before the large heart shaped leaves unfold. They are followed by large fruits which can be pressed to produce tung oil.
Though toxic if taken internally, the oil has been used medicinally to treat parasitic skin diseases, scalds and wounds. The oils is said to penetrate the skin and into the muscles. It is reported that when it is applied to surgical wounds, it will cause inflammation to subside within 4-5 days and leave no scar tissue after suppressing the infection. The oil is emetic, antiphlogistic and a vermifuge. The oil is also used as a wood treatment and in the manufacture of many products.
In the early 1900’s tung oil trees were introduced from Asia to establish large commercial plantings in the Southeastern US. Many people admired their beauty and planted them in their yards as ornamentals. The commercial plantings have long been abandoned, but many of the ornamental plantings persist around old gardens. In my 30 years of exploration, I have never found it to be invasive. I have never found it to have spread far from the old plantings. The seeds are too large to be transported by the wind and animals do not move them. (It is considered invasive farther south in Texas and Florida.)
We have one tree available in the nursery. It is several years old and at least 4′ tall. It is too large to ship but is available for pickup at the nursery or local delivery
Information about medicinal usage was taken from the following website. https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=vernicia